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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From The Outside, KAL's "7 Star Hanok Hotel" Showcases Excellence in Freight

Remember Korean Air's "hanok hotel" project in  Songhyeon-dong(see "Korean Air Grounded : Seoul 7 Star Hotel Delayed")? Rather than traditional Korean architecture, the first aerial views bring to mind plane hangars ("Excellence in Freight"?), computer chips, old tape recorder keys, or maybe the kind of golden piano keys Liberace's diamond-laden fingers would love to strike:

Source "7성급 한옥호텔'이라더니…귀퉁이 영빈관이 '고작'"  (News1 - 20140417) via Naver
The architect KIM Won - who worked with the great KIM Swoo-geun at Space Group - went as far as wondering if this was truly the work of a renowned colleague (Mario Botta, who did the round part of the Leeum), and how this thing could pretend to be inspired by hanok.

Yes, if you look closely in the upper left corner, you do find a couple of hanoks, but they sound very much like the "Hanok Alibi" I wrote about last year in "Build a hanok and they will come - Marketing impostures and genuine slow urbanism":
And you can't even see them from the street the way you do for the Office of Royal Genealogy at the nearby MMCA Seoul*..., but that's consistent with a non-inclusive, resolutely exclusive 7-star concept that, otherwise and regardless of its degree of hanokness, seems optimized to leverage on intense foot traffic at a key touristic intersection, with a gallery facing Insadong. 

Note that unlike in Blingblingistan (a.k.a. Dubai), hotel classifications don't reach as far as 7 stars in Korea, but that's another story. At least - speaking of stories - this high-profile project remains low-rise...

... and at ground level for the moment, because the land has remained untouched so far. I took this view from across the street a couple of years ago...

November 2011
... and News1 published this close-up yesterday: 

Source "서울 호텔 이용률 78.9%, 공급과잉 우려"  (News1 - 20140416)
News1's shot was taken not far from where the gallery will be erected, at the bottom righ corner in the aerial view above. This angle prolongs the Insadong axis, and you can see the Folk Museum, Cheong Wa Dae, and Bugaksan in the background.

Note that this last picture illustrated an article about the mounting risk of hotel rooms oversupply in Seoul, a recurrent topic on my own "Korean errlines"**, and an issue raised yesterday by the CCEJ (Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice) during a meeting where the so-called 'hanok hotel' came under fire.

Intense lobbying eventually seems to be paying for KAL, and leveraging the government's recent deregulation frenzy, an obviously tailor-made reform took care last month of the law that had blocked the company for years (no hotels could be built near schools, and there's a couple of them just next door):

"Law changes to allow hotels near schools. Will #KoreanAir build its 'hanokized' 7-star near #Anguk?" (20140327)

So if you want an aerial view from a hotel with hanok, I suggest the one I took a couple of days ago from the 23rd floor of The Shilla:

"#Jangchung Gymnasium in its #Colosseum stage (in the distance, #DDPSeoul, #Doota Tower)"
Following a bottom right - top left diagonal:
  • in the right corner: the hotel's Yeong Bing Gwan, a 1967 hanok used for weddings and receptions
  • in the center: the old Jangchung Gymnasium, beheaded during its renovation, almost looks like Roma's Colosseo
  • in the background: on the way to Doota Tower, the shining flank of the giant squid (the DDP - see "Sneak peek inside Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park")
And of course, Wongudan's Hwanggungu Pavilion is still standing on Westin Chosun territory.

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* BTW if you fancy more animated aerial views of this block, re-watch "MMCA Seoul from above")
** along with the future magnets on each side of the Gyeongbokgung: this KAL hotel and the Four Seasons (see for instance "Four Seasons Seoul", "A 6 Star Hotel in Gwanghwamun?")

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